O'Reilly Programming PHPIt’s always important to have good resources when you are starting out to learn something new. Thankfully, learning PHP is much easier with books like Programming PHP (2nd edition).

Authored by Kevin Tatroe, Peter MacIntyre, and (none other than the father of the PHP language) Rasmus Lerdorf. I found this book to be an excellent, well-rounded companion for anyone doing anything with PHP.

But, is it good for the absolute beginner?

As far as coverage goes, this book has everything. It walks you through from the history of PHP, the language basics, all the way to application techniques like performance tunining, building PHP extensions etc. Frankly, this is probably a bit much for beginners to digest all in one go, but at least this book will remain relevant for a long time – you’re not likely to ditch this book after you have mastered the basics.

I found the writing style to be a relaxing read, easy to follow but yet borders on “text-book”-ish (the kind of style you’ll find in academic books). This, unfortunately, makes the whole ‘feel’ of the book shout ‘boring!’ to the casual browser. It’s very easy for you to pass this book over for something more eye-catching, if you didn’t know who Rasmus Lerdorf is.

The terminologies used in the book quite accurately reflect what’s used in the industry. Here’s an example:

A literal is a data value that appears directly in a program. 
The following are all literals in PHP:
  2001
  0xFE
  1.4142
  "Hello World"
  'Hi'
  true
  null

Seriously, how often would you use the word ‘literal’ if you’re not in the computer programming space, but I think this is a good thing as it instills in you, the right kind of words to use when you’re talking ‘shop’ to other PHP developers. You will soon be refering ‘decimal numbers’ as ‘floats’, and ‘NULL’ takes on a whole new meaning!

If you’re new to PHP language, but you’ve had some background in programming other languages, this book is the one to have. It covers database access, XML, security, installation – the kind of stuff that once you have an idea about the syntax structure, you’re good to go.

But, is this a recommended book for PHP beginners? I would still say ‘Yes’, but I would not recommend this as the FIRST book you should get, maybe the more visual type might be a better choice. It is however a book I think every PHP developer (at whatever level) should get eventually because its such an all-rounded book. Even today, after many years of using PHP, I still find relevant and NEW information which I didn’t previously know. And there’s nothing like hearing it straight from the horse’s Rasmus’ mouth.

This is definately a keeper.

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